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Artt Frank

Bop drummer/composer/lyricist Artt Frank is best known for his long-term association with trumpeter immortal Chet Baker, with whom he worked for well over twenty years. Artt has also been associated with an impressive list of jazz luminaries over the past fifty years including the great Charlie Parker, Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, singer Billie Holiday and many others.

ARTT FRANK, bop drummer/composer, is part of a dying breed -one of the few authentic bop musicians on the scene today. He is best known for his long term association with Chet Baker, with whom Artt worked for over 20 years. He has also worked with Jimmy Heath, Al Cohn, Ted Curson, Sonny Stitt, Phil Moore and many others, including one memorable night with Billie Holiday. He has also sat in on several occasions with Charlie Parker, Lee Morgan, Tadd Dameron, Dexter Gordon and Bud Powell. Artt is 100% ear player who plays from the seat of his pants.
He listens intently to his band mates and responds with lightning quickness, utilizing appropriate shading and perfect placement. His dynamics, especially on brushes, are most engaging. He really generates both spark and fire. When he uses sticks, you know immediately that he's a pure bebop drummer whose roots run deep. And he locks in the time by bearing down forcefully on his hi-hat on the after beat, which produces the sensation of continued forward propulsion. On occasion he'll throw in unpredictable, yet perfectly placed bass drum bombs against the ride cymbal- then shifts seamlessly to left hand accents on the snare. His four limbs are seemingly independent and yet the effect is like an unbroken chain of movement that both supports and fashions itself around the soloist.


"Since I play a hundred percent by ear, I respond pretty much to what is going on around me. I know who I am, whom I've played with, and what I have come through, so it isn't like I have to sit down behind a set of drums and let the other musicians hear how I play. They know from the very first hit on the snare that I am authentic be-bop.

"The conditions I grew up in, the musicians, the clubs, the owners, they don't exist any more. I am part of a dying breed. All those wonderful cats I used to play with are gone, but they're still very much alive in my heart and when I'm sitting alone in my room thinking about those good old times, I can actually hear Bird, Tadd, Dexter, Bud and Chet. Yeah man, the mind is a beautiful place.

"I have had no formal musical training to build on, which in a sense limits what I can do musically. I learned to draw a circle around my limitations and became the master of that circle, and I never think of what I'm going to play, or where I'm going to place a beat or an accent or drop a bass drum bomb. It just happens, it's what Charlie Parker called placement. That's what he said I had naturally, good time and natural placement.

"Drummers of today have arsenals of technique and fantastic chops. Just about every one of them are monsters. But technique, however astonishing it may be, is meaningless unless you can tell your own personal story, like Bird said: "Man, if you ain't lived it you can't really play it". Techniques and chops are essential, but if these are not applied in the proper place within the framework of a given tune, it will upset the time and rhythm and throw everything off kilter. Drummers should develop their ears and learn to be more sympathetic and supportive toward the soloist. Time, rhythm, and placement are the most essential tools in bop drumming. As to my approach, I play just on the backside of the beat giving the time that special laid back sensation of push and pull, no matter what the tempo may be. Bop drumming is unique because it has its own personal identity. It cannot be mistaken for swing, Dixieland, free or fusion. Bebop is more than just a style of jazz. It's a feeling and sound from a moment in time that no longer exists, except on recordings. This is the era from which I came.

"Whenever I play -- in a nightclub, concert hall, museum, or recording studio; whether I'm playing my own compositions or those of the greats of the past -- I always seek to bring out what I refer to as the three P's: pain, pathos, and poignancy. I tell musicians, when you find these... you've found the heart, body and soul of the composition; the very essence of life. That's what it's really all about. The immortals of bop; Bird, Miles, Tadd, Monk, Dex, Bud, Ritchie, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Lee, Fats, Chet and the other pioneers; all of them had these three P's within their daily lives -- and that is what made their sound so warm and lyrically great. They lived what they played!"

"In a day and age when music truly stirring and innovative are rare or nonexistent realities, it is inspiring to hear what all-star bop drummer Artt Frank can contribute to the jazz ensemble and its history. Refreshing and inspiring hardly begin to explain the enriching portrait that Artt predominately creates. Both his solos and steady brushwork are in fact flawless and beguiling. Clear, precise and steady, Artt makes the voice of his drums range in tones from a whisper to bursts of emotional rainbows.

"The drums are rarely, if ever, thought of as both a percussion and melodic instrument, but in the hands of Artt Frank who so deftly and magically arches pathways between all the instruments, his drums become both. Artt's innate sense of melody add to the swinging and subtle poetry creating shadows and light with his brushstrokes across the musical canvas. Enhancing the pulsating heartbeat of a song undulating with breath, rhythm and infectious tonality, Artt's assured, swift and delving hands never cease to amaze the true jazz aficionado.

"Artt Frank is a musician steeped in midnight balladry and deep nights' bursting life rhythms. Through his instrument one can feel his wild, impeccably-tuned imagination which is so drenced in his GOD-given "feel" for jazz (be-bop). Listen carefully and you will hear the same master craftsman who so beautifully and ably provided the expressive foundation for the great Chet Baker's fluglehorn and trumpet during their years together. Artt Frank truly adds further intensity to the heartchords that begin to resonate in your soul, whether he swings lightly with great skill or creates tone poems during the interplay of a sensitive ballad. In the uniuque hands of Artt Frank drums and musical reality assumes new meaning.

"Artt is as much at home playing intricate triplets, straight-ahead 4/4 bop, exploring a jazz samba, leaning into half-time or immersing himself and your heart in the haunting refrains of a lovely jazz ballad. Time signatures have never been a problem for Artt for he has the key tucked away in his soul. In fact, his drumwork is never overpowering but rather can be razor sharp to illuminate the other instruments or can caress the other soloists to sensually deepen the warmth of the composition. I have followed the music of Artt Frank and Chet Baker and their all-star jazz bands for many, many years (in person). And I know that Artt is one of those gifted and RARE drummers who, while improvising a solo, can firmly hold the essential rhythm in place with his use of sticks or brush strokes that add not only drive to the tune, but color, texture and depth of tonality, infusing the song with continual new life. This is what it means to truly be an artist." -- Written by Tony Mattiaccio, April 28, 2003


"My whole philosopy of music is to build a spiritual unity in sound. If an audience becomes a part of that unity, if only for a few minutes, then I have accomplished what I have set out to do. This is my way of sharing with others all the wonderful gifts that GOD has bestowed upon me. In my compositions, this unity is expressed through lyricism. A melody that can be understood, felt and shared is a very powerful thing as is the sharing that we show in love for one another - a spiritual unity coming down from, and ascending up to the FATHER of LIGHTS who gives it continuously when you ask."

Future Plans

"Only God knows what my future holds. I want to continue to compose meaningful music, such as haunting ballads, jazz waltz, sambas, and God willing I shall. I also hope to record more CD's and do live jazz concerts, as well as to help budding jazz musicians with promise to gain important exposure, and to the best of my ability love everyone, as YESHUA commanded, and to be there for any one who may need me."

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